Why did the House fail? Demand and supply before the modern home magazine, 1880s-1900s

Deborah Cohen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Launched in 1897, The House was Britain's first modern home decoration magazine. Its founder, John Benn, was a trade paper magnate whose career had been marked by a string of successes. The House collapsed after just five years. This article seeks to explain The House's failure. The House flopped, at least in part, because its editors adhered too closely to the ideas of design reform. The fixed principles of correct taste advocated in its pages, along with the magazine's persistent criticism of consumers, did little to win The House loyal subscribers. By the 1890s, house decoration was increasingly understood as an expression of individuality, not as a matter of following rules. By comparing The House's demise with the contemporaneous success of the 'lady art advisers' of the women's press - whose columns endorsed self-expression over correctness - this article suggests that the cause of design reform ultimately foundered on the shoals of the consumer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-42
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Design History
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2005


  • Benn, John
  • Design reform movement
  • Home decoration
  • Magazine
  • Taste
  • Women's

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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